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Southeast crop conditions continue to deteriorate

Scattered showers did little to alleviate dry conditions across the Southeast during the week ended May 27.

Corn was taking a beating across the lower Southeast as the crop twisted during mid-day temperatures. Cotton and peanut planting was stopped in many areas, while pasture and hay fields continued to dry up.

A general look at the situation:


Moderate temperatures prevailed again for the week ending May 27, with no rainfall for most of the state, according to the USDA, NASS, Georgia Field Office.

Average highs were in the 80s and average lows were in the 50s. Rainfall averaged just 0.01 inches for the week.

Topsoil moisture conditions were rated at 74 percent very short, 22 percent short, 4 percent adequate, and 0 percent surplus.

The extended drought has caused a critical situation for agriculture. Dry conditions continued to delay planting as well as pasture establishment or renovation. Some farmers were planting in order to meet insurance deadlines.

Crops have been slow to emerge, and those crops that have emerged were suffering from extreme drought stress. Some growers indicated dryland corn could be a total loss. The high cost of irrigation had some farmers re-evaluating the profitability of corn.

Ponds and streams continued to drop and wells were going dry. Growers reported Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus in tobacco and thrips in cotton.

Livestock producers continued culling their herds due to lack of hay and grazing.

Small grain harvest was under way. Oats looked good, but wheat yields were low as a result of freeze losses.

Other activities included small grain harvest and cutting hay. County Extension agents reported an average of 6.6 days suitable for field work.


A few localities received welcomed rain during the week of May 21 through May 27, but several reported no measurable rainfall. Homestead reported over two inches of rain for the week, and Hastings, Jay and Umatilla reported a half inch.

Most other areas getting showers recorded from traces to about a quarter inch. Lake Okeechobee is expected to reach a record low level this week if no significant rain falls.

Temperatures for the week averaged normal to five degrees below in the major cities. Most daytime highs were in the 80s with Marianna, Tallahassee and Tampa recording at least one high in the 90s. Lows were in the 50s, 60s and 70s with Jacksonville and Alachua reporting at least one low in the 40s.

As of May 28, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Forestry reported 195 active fires affecting 194,693 acres.

In Jackson County, wheat and oat yields are in good condition.

In Washington County, all crops are suffering from the drought; ponds and some wells dropped to critically low levels. Most ground preparations for planting stopped; some farmers planted to meet crop insurance deadlines, hoping for rain to aid germination. Hay fields are not growing. The few cattle producers who have some hay are not willing to sell it because they are afraid they might run out with no rain in sight.

In Jefferson County, soil moisture is critically short; there is no hay within hundreds of miles; most corn, peanut, and cotton planting is delayed; growers will not be able to plant corn.

In Santa Rosa County, corn is showing burn due to the dry weather.

In Dade County, nursery crops are growing well due to rising humidity; locusts are eating some palm leaves.

Soil moisture was rated mostly very short in all areas except the extreme southern Peninsula where soil moisture was rated adequate to surplus.

In Gadsden County, vegetable producers harvested crookneck, zucchini, and straight neck squash, and cucumbers.

The Quincy area tomato harvest is expected to begin within the next five to seven days.

In the Palatka area, potato chip stock growers expect about two more weeks of harvesting while table stock growers expect about another four to five weeks of harvesting.

In the Plant City area, the continued drought slowed the production of some peppers; the local blueberry harvest is beginning to wind down with a few u-pick farms now open to the public.

In Washington County, some irrigated vegetables were harvested, but yields are below normal; deer and other wildlife predation in watermelon fields is very serious.

Recent cool temperatures also slowed the maturation of watermelons in some northern areas.

In the Trenton region, watermelon cutting is expected to become quite active within the next seven to 10 days. Other vegetables and non citrus fruit harvested during the week included snap beans, cantaloupes, celery, sweet corn, eggplant, okra, radishes, and tomatoes.

Extremely light supplies of cabbage were also marketed during the week.


Drought conditions continue to worsen daily. During the week ending May 27, no significant changes occurred. Farmers are still in need of rain to complete their planting season.

Some Alabama farmers are putting planting on hold to wait for more moisture. Autauga Extension Agent, Leonard Kuykendall, stated farmers who were not finished planting have stopped due to lack of soil moisture.

Ponds, wells and streams are drying up.

The area is over 14 inches of rainfall below normal for this year and 47 inches short since January of 2005. The first five months of 2007 will be the driest on record.

The temperatures from last week reported daytime highs in the low 90s and evening lows in the high 40s to mid 50s.

There were seven stations reporting precipitation last week and each station reported less than one quarter inch of rain.

Kuykendall, stated that with waist high corn almost ready to tassel, another disaster with corn is probable.

FSA Agent, Donald E Mann stated that Jackson County continues to suffer from an extreme drought. The corn is starting to twist up in the late morning instead of the late afternoon.

Washington County Extension agent, Arthur Threatt reported dry conditions are causing corn to start twisting in mid-day temperature. Corn conditions have shown an increase in very poor to poor categories.

Alabama’s winter wheat conditions also showed an increase in very poor conditions due the continuous dry weather.

Kuykendall also commented though most of the cotton is planted, less than one third is at a workable stand with weeds.

Mann also stated young cotton and soybeans are starting to die on the poor hills due to lack of soil moisture.

Henry County Extension Agent, James D. Jones Jr. stated rainfall is needed across the board.

Cotton and peanut plantings are approaching the end with little to no moisture present in the soil. Small grain harvest has begun with yields expected to be low.

Doug Chapman, commercial horticulture regional Extension agent, stated the extremely dry weather continues to affect all aspects of commercial horticulture. Tomato spotted wilt virus is showing up in some tomato plantings. Thrips numbers remain high. Some mites have been reported in apples.

Strawberries are still being harvested, but some growers are winding down their season.

Jones commented that pastures are dry and short. Cattlemen are feeding hay as quickly as it can be baled.

Mann indicated that pastures are drying up and hay yields are running about 50 percent of normal. Threatt reported hay crops are being harvested with little new growth.


Dry weather across the Volunteer State last week allowed farmers to make excellent progress on field activities such as planting soybeans and harvesting hay. There were 7 days suitable for field work last week, the third consecutive week with virtually uninterrupted access to fields and pastures.

However, most areas of the state are in need of a good general rain. This recent lack of moisture has caused low pond levels, localized delays in planting and fertilizing, and drought-like symptoms in some areas.

Corn has completely emerged and the crop was rated in mostly good-to-fair condition.

An additional 25 percent of the soybean acreage was planted last week with some delays caused by dry conditions.

Over half of the tobacco crop has been transplanted, slightly ahead of the normal pace.

The first cutting of hay passed the three-quarters mark, about a week ahead of schedule.

Winter wheat continued its rapid development and the crop was rated in mostly fair-to-poor condition.

Topsoil moisture levels were rated 36 percent very short, 42 percent short, and 22 percent adequate. Subsoil moisture levels were rated 32 percent very short, 43 percent short, and 25 percent adequate.

Temperatures last week averaged 5 to 10 degrees above normal across the entire state. Rainfall was once again well below normal for the entire state with most locations averaging about a one inch deficit for the past week.

County agent comments:

"Dry! Dry! Dry! No-till corn is still holding up pretty well. Conventional-planted corn acres showing signs of stress in weak areas of fields. Virtually 100 percent of wheat acres are drying down and losing all green color. Some wheat acres look really good while others are beginning to show final results of freeze damage. After 4 relatively good crop years in Dyer County, this one is starting out to be a hot, dry cropping season. Send rain!" Tim Campbell, Dyer County

"Extremely dry conditions over most of the county. Some cotton is being replanted due to a combination of factors such as seedling disease, herbicide injury, thrips pressure, etc. Dry land corn is twisting and struggling. Soybean planting has stopped due to the lack of soil moisture." Richard Buntin, Crockett County

"The first cutting yield of hay is about one-third of normal. Lime is being spread as long as the supply will last. The ground is mid-summer dry and holds up trucks loaded with lime." Ken Burress, Wayne County

"Our water situation is getting critical. Ponds are drying up as well as creeks. Farmers are going to have to start hauling water or move cattle. Our pastures are very short, and farmers are turning cattle onto harvested hay fields. People are selling fall calves early and discussing selling cows." Larry Moorehead, Moore County

"The bulk of the wheat crop is in the milk to early dough stage and in the need of water to put any size to kernels. Dry conditions are reducing the potential of already reduced yields. The cotton crop is planted and up with a small portion of the acreage beginning to square; however, the bulk of the crop is still in the seedling stage." Ed Burns, Franklin County

"Strawberry picking is winding down with about half the fruit size and yield of normal. Tobacco setting is well under way with extremely dry conditions causing some producers to delay until adequate moisture is available." Mannie Bedwell, Hamblen County


The Commonwealth experienced dry conditions, for the week ending May 27, 2007. Days suitable for field work were 6.6.

Topsoil moisture was generally short.

Some small grain fields were being harvested for hay. Although many small grain fields looked good, rain is needed to help fill the heads.

Corn stands looked good, but some producers noted animal damage in some fields. Most soybeans are coming up nicely; several producers were finishing up full season bean planting.

Vegetable farmers were transplanting their crops into beds. Hay harvest was in full swing.

Other farm activities included: Equipment maintenance, side-dressing corn with nitrogen and bush-hogging fields.

South Carolina

Much of the state reported drought conditions with minimal to no rain reported. The lack of rain continued to remove soil moisture and negatively impact crops emergance and development.

Delayed planting was also reported in some areas. Soils were 38 percent very short, 47 percent short and 15 percent adequate.

Because of the warm, sunny weather, average days suitable for fieldwork were 6.6 for the week.

Corn, including the fields that were replanted, was reported completely emerged and 1 percent silked. Cotton and peanut planting was near normal despite some farmers waiting because of the dry soils.

Soybean planting continued, and is reported at 42 percent planted and 22 percent emerged. Oats were reported 91 percent turning color, 51 percent ripe, and 15 percent harvested.

Winter wheat was reported 88 percent turning color, 44 percent ripe, and 2 percent harvested.

Livestock condition was fair to good last week despite poor grazing conditions in some areas. Pasture condition declined this past week due to the lack of moisture as some producers reported feeding hay to livestock.

Vegetable planting was nearly completed.

Peaches were 93 percent very poor, 5 percent poor and 2 percent fair. Apple condition was 40 percent very poor, 30 percent poor and 30 percent fair.

North Carolina

This past week brought limited precipitation to much of the state allowing farmers to take full advantage of the conditions to conduct field work. There were 6 days suitable for field work compared to 5 days the previous week.

Statewide, soil moisture levels are rated at 3 percent very short, 30 percent short, 65 percent adequate, and 2 percent surplus.

Activities during the week included planting cotton, peanuts, sorghum, soybeans, sweet potatoes and transplanting tobacco, cutting hay and preparing for small grain harvest.

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